Revealed: Sheffield United's up-to-date transfer policy as Liverpool defenders linked

Sheffield United’s coaching staff are working on the basis that the centre-half they hope to sign before next week’s transfer deadline will arrive on loan.

Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 12:13 pm

Although officials at Bramall Lane have demonstrated they are not averse to changing plans in the past - two years ago, the club’s recruitment budget was suddenly raised to facilitate the arrival of Sander Berge - Paul Heckingbottom is now thought to be focusing his search for defensive reinforcements on players flagged for temporary rather than permanent moves.

That appears to signal a recent policy switch behind the scenes, with both John Souttar and James Hill known to have attracted interest from United’s coaching and recruitment staff at the beginning of the window.

Souttar, now a Scotland international after impressing for Heart of Midlothian, recently entered into a pre-contract agreement with Rangers while Hill, whose father Matt once played for United, eventually joined AFC Bournemouth from Fleetwood Town.

Sheffield United manager Paul Heckingbottom is looking primarily to the loan market: Andrew Yates / Sportimage

With AS Roma’s Robin Olsen recently cutting short his stay in South Yorkshire - the Sweden goalkeeper now represents Premier League outfit Aston Villa - Heckingbottom has room for two more loans within his matchday squads.

Read More

Read More
Sheffield United: After facing some of the greatest names in world football, Rob...

Conor Hourihane, Ben Davies and Morgan Gibbs-White - who United hope will soon be declared available for selection following injury - are currently on season long deals from Villa, Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively.

Adam Davies, previously of Stoke City, is scheduled to be formally unveiled as Olsen’s replacement ahead of Saturday’s visit to Peterborough United. That means United, who remain convinced they can still qualify for the play-offs despite the disruption caused to their fixture schedule by a spate of postponements, are now concentrating on drafting in cover for the likes of John Egan, Chris Basham and Jack Robinson.

Liverpool's Rhys Williams has been suggested as a target for Sheffield United: Phil Noble - Pool/Getty Images

Liverpool duo Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips have both been flagged up as potential acquisitions, although the latter boasts numerous top-flight admirers. A ‘loan to buy’ bid from Watford for the 24-year-old is believed to have been rejected by Anfield’s hierarchy earlier this month while Newcastle reportedly view him as a possible alternative to Sevilla’s Diego Carlos.

Speaking earlier this month, Heckingbottom told journalists that the continued threat of Covid-19 was making it difficult to persuade rival managers to sanction the release of players they would otherwise allow to depart.

Sheffield United's Oliver McBurnie's header goes just wide of the goal as he jumps with Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips: Oli Scarff, Pool via AP

Revealing that “no one wants to leave themselves short”, Heckingbottom warned that could make it difficult to “do business” until the “end of the window” as teams wait for the latest wave of the coronavirus to slow.

However, Liverpool did allow Williams to spend the first half of the campaign with Swansea City before recalling him. Like Phillips, it is difficult to see how the 20-year-old forces his way into Jurgen Klopp’s starting 11. But if Phillips does depart, with Burnley and West Ham also touted as possible destinations, then the German could be tempted to keep Williams in the North-West as cover.

United were already short of options at the heart of their rearguard before Heckingbottom elected to revert to a back three following his appointment in November. Slavisa Jokanovic, who spent six months at the helm before being sacked, favoured a back four.